BEST DANCER - 2003
Susan Scalf, a dancer who continually finds ways to top her last over-the-top performance, made people laugh so hard during Shawn McConneloug and Her Orchestra's Palace of Dreams that they probably didn't notice the enormous effort of her task. Poured into a skintight evening gown, and with scuba flippers on her feet, Scalf flopped onto the stage like a diva seal on the lam from SeaWorld. Next, she somehow bellied her way across the boards and into a seat next to a fellow performer. This took only a few moments, but Scalf's sheer will made for the sort of physical comedy that is often attempted by traditionally trained dancers but rarely achieved. Such versatility is what makes Scalf such an enjoyable movement artist, whether she's frolicking her way through McConneloug's singular dance-theater pieces or experimenting in modern and improvisational dance with the likes of HIJACK, Emily Johnson, Morgan Thorson, and the groundbreaking collective Concrete Farm. In all these troupes, Scalf embraces her work with a wide-eyed exuberance and femininity that is tempered by a tough-as-nails physical threshold. Few dancers exude as much hard-won confidence as Scalf, and as a result she's one of the more sought-after collaborators about town. Best of all, this artist never fails to surprise us, or herself.